In the comments section of our most recent "how can we help you?" thread, Peter writes:
I’m currently finishing up at a fairly prestigious graduate program. As expected, all of my advisors are interested in getting me a research job. They tend to talk up opportunities at R1s and talk about the “struggles” of teaching at SLACs and state schools with hefty teaching loads.
Here’s the problem: I desperately don’t want a research job. The only part of philosophy I like is teaching it. I’m happy to do research to make sure that the content I teach is accurate and informative, but I have no interest in churning out papers to be cited four or five times. I do not want to be a leading scholar of anything. I want to teach my students how to think for themselves and how to think well.
How does someone from a research-obsessed PhD program position themselves for jobs with a strong teaching focus? (I mean where the requirements for tenure are at least 50/50 teaching and research.)
My program has given me several opportunities to teach and I have received accolades and good evaluations for my teaching, but I’ve had no luck at all convincing schools that I’m dedicated first and foremost to my students.
Peter first I would try applying to prestigious slacs. They like fancy degrees and care a lot about teaching. But also getting involved in any programs that focus on teaching. There are camps and stuff like that you can do. Do adjunct work, even if it is just one class and you don't "need" to do it. It would help show you as a serious teacher. Put teaching first on your CV (before publications) and emphasis in your cover letter what you said above: that despite the pressure to be a researcher you prefer a teaching job. Lastly, I would avoid too many and too prestigious publications. With your degree it could be easy to "over-qualify" yourself for many teaching jobs.
As for your professors. I would not mention your goals/plans unless you really really trust them, as they will try to talk you out of it. Just apply for teaching jobs and when you accept one that will be that. Given this market, it is very hard to criticize anyone for accepting a TT position of any sort. Lastly, if you are sure you would be much happier at a teaching job, I would not apply to research jobs. If you are offered the position there will be all the pressure in the world to take it. And just like that you could end up in a life-time position that makes you unhappy.
Amanda's suggestions sound basically right to me. Someone coming out of a top-program will be probably be at a disadvantage for non-elite teaching jobs--and too many high-ranking publications may only accentuate that disadvantage (due to potential assumptions by search committee members that they must be looking for a more elite job). So I agree someone like Peter should probably have their eye on more highly-ranked SLAC jobs. However, I think if someone like Peter developed themselves as a candidate and pitched themselves in the right way, they could in principle make themselves competitive for teaching jobs more generally. How?
In one sense, the answer is obvious: Peter should do whatever he reason can to make his dossier as a whole come across like someone who really wants and is well-prepared for a teaching job. But how can this be done? Here are a few suggestions, based on experience (I've been on three search committees now, and interviewed for many teaching jobs in my time on the market).
- Get as much solo teaching experience as you can, in as many different types of courses as you can (this not only makes you look like a candidate who wants to be a teacher; small programs at teaching schools often have particular courses they need taught--and if you can teach that course, you will probably be at a distinct advantage).
- Work hard on becoming a distinctive teacher: you want to stand out from hundreds of other candidates. Whatever your teaching philosophy may be, you will be well-served if you do thoughtful or creative things other candidates don't do--in the classroom, your syllabi, assignments, etc. (all of which you should include in your teaching portfolio).
- Write thoughtful cover letters tailored to the school you are applying to (showing you know things about the school, could teach particular courses, etc.). People at teaching schools often care about their institution and want to know that you really want to work there. Cover letters are one place you can stand out here--and are also a place where someone like Peter can draw attention to their teaching accolades (signaling that, yes, they see themselves as a teacher first and foremost).
- Pursue service opportunities: working with students outside of the classroom (viz. the philosophy club, etc.), or otherwise getting involved in university life (viz. other service opportunities), is another possible way to show that you you see yourself more as an educator than primarily as a researcher.
- Pitch your research to non-specialists: people at teaching schools often do care about research, but can care about your ability to make your research attractive and accessible to students, administrators, etc. (i.e. people who don't read professional philosophy journals).
- Make sure your dossier is polished: people at R1 schools may not care how well-put together your materials are, as they are presumably interested in whether you are a killer researcher. People at teaching institutions are looking (in my experience) to hire a professional--someone who has their act together, knows how to present their work professionally, etc.
But these are just a few of my thoughts. What are yours? Especially if you work at a teaching school, what do you think someone like Peter could do to be competitive as a candidate for a job in your department?